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No military alliances, foreign bases here - PM

ONLY joint exercises with friendly countries:

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed that the country will not enter into military alliances with any country or make the country’s bases available to foreign countries.

Speaking at the inauguration of second Indian Ocean conference at Temple Trees on Thursday, the Prime Minister reiterated that the government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena will continue military cooperation such as training, supply of equipment and taking part in joint exercises with friendly countries.

The premier refuted claims by some segments that the Hambantota Port would be turned into a military base. He said that only Sri Lankan Armed Forces are allowed to carry out military activities in ports and airports.

“Only the Sri Lanka Armed Forces have the responsibility for military activities in our ports and airports”, the premier added.He said that the government is working with foreign private investors on the commercial development of sea ports.

The Prime Minister added that freedom of navigation is of paramount importance for Sri Lanka to become the Hub in the Indian Ocean.

“It is only then that we can reap the full benefits of our strategic location as well as the availability of ports on all coasts and two international airports with good land connectivity.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also urged all countries to concentrate on a Blue Economy and have IORA coordinate efforts from all countries to address ‘overfishing, pollution and habitat losses’.

Coming back to security, the Prime Minister reiterated his call for the freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean and there be unhindered lawful maritime commerce according to international standards.

‘Major world powers have deployed substantial military power in the Indian ocean.Vital sea lanes of communication should be open for all and must be used for mutual benefit in a sustainable manner’, he said.

As he touched on the maritime build up of major players such as India, Australia,China,USA and Japan from ocean and the latter three increasing their forward naval presence,Wickremesinghe warned of the need to watch out for naval competition among these major powers.